So I have returned from the 2015 OCTELA conference and WOW! I am still “downloading”! While my recovery from foot surgery really slowed my stamina and limited my participation (I didn’t get to many sessions and had to miss a few of the keynote speakers), I left with some wonderful memories and ideas to work with. Highlights for me were the luncheons. On Friday, we were treated to Jordan Sonnenblick (http://www.jordansonnenblick.com/), whom I was not already familiar with (maybe because I teach a younger audience?) Anyway, his story really touched me (and made me cry!) Mr. Sonneblick, I am a new fan and can’t wait to read your books!

On Saturday I had the ABSOLUTE privilege of having lunch with Jeanette and Christopher Canyon (http://www.jeanetteandchristophercanyon.com/OfficialWebsite/Welcome.html) The Canyon’s had visited Loveland schools 2 times in the past so I already had a nice collection of their work and knew we were in for a treat! However as an added bonus of getting a reserved seat (ELA award winner), my friend Susan and I got to sit at their table. We had a wonderful lunch conversation…it was such a joy!  Then of course it was followed by their presentation; one that truly brought the “Connected” theme of the conference home!

One of Christopher’s books Grandma’s Feather Bed was one I did not already have. I shared with him how one of the things I do with students is explore “text” through song lyrics. I had recently played John Denver’s version to my 3rd graders. After just listening, we then looked at the lyrics and worked on examining some meaning. I followed it up with letting my 3rd graders watch a clip where John Denver sung this song on the Muppet Show.  Without going into detail about my lesson with my students, let’s just say that the overall theme we extracted was about family.  Now I can return to my students with Christopher’s book (autographed of course) and we can enjoy the language in the lyrics in a wonderfully visual way! (I do already have Country Roads, Take Me Home, but need to revisit it with my students because Christopher’s “bridge” connection visually and lyrically excited me!)

I already had Jeanette’s Over in the Ocean app as well as a few other pieces of her work, so when she shared her latest City Beats, Susan and I looked at each other and grinned! We had just two days prior to the conference discussed perspective/point of view in our ELA teacher meeting. How perfect! Now I have Jeanette’s special dedication to us “enjoy perspective” and have that to take back to love with my students!

Jeanette and Christopher Canyon


Of course I did enjoy presenting at OCTELA. I met some wonderful new people whom I hope I inspired at my presentation “Delve into Discourse”. Ironically, one teacher is my neighbor and the other who teaches in a neighboring school district is teaching gifted students with a SIMILAR service model! I cannot wait to continue connecting and collaborating with these people!  (I have to shout out and thank the fantastic high school teachers who stuck with my session! Even though I teach 3/4 I hope they found some things they could take back to their classrooms!)

Thanks OCTELA for another great conference! See you in 2016!